“We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror.”—Solaris (1972)
Outside looking out, Watcher-A drifts above towers of silence in the dead city, pauses after 73 hours of surveillance to bask in magnetic fields droning behind Tulip-in-Bloom, corroded petals and rockets erect as if worshiping the sky in submissive defeat.
Yesterday, frozen winds sliced emptiness with shards blown from windows yawning like jagged mouths in a nightmare. Whether the whispery audio captured that night sighed from ghosts sizzling with radioactive doom, Watcher-A could not determine. The Controllers adjusted—reluctantly—for ambiguity errors, faces cruel and infernal licking heat from luminous screens.
They knew, of course, what had befallen the great city . . . or were reasonably sure. The Watchers and their whirring cybernetic innards looked and looked and looked, but found only artifacts scattered as if abruptly—some mass panic?
No one actually knew, and goddamned anyone who claimed to. Buzzing above vast plains arid with enigmatic forms, Watcher-A scanned nothingness with infrared, microwave, millimeter-wave radar, and pummeled earth with a subsonic fist that knocked ice into the rocks. Still nothing. Where had the others gone? This place stood bereft even of loneliness, ruins left to autistic gloom like sculptures in a surrealist’s garden. Portents of futile escape velocities destined for hypersonic obliteration on Mars, or to be eaten by sulfuric-acid rains on Venus, where even the steely Russians failed.
So long as progress was made, surveillance total, streamed to insectoid data farms under the rotten floors of the Institute for Eugenic Studies . . . well . . . all would be optimal, don’t you think?
I asked you a question. Don’t you think?
Oh . . . that’s right. Watcher-A’s download [W-A/776219] is here to remind me. It doesn’t matter what you think.
Because we’ve thought all the thoughts worth thinking, or that ever will be worthy. We are the Controllers. It doesn’t matter. You do not purchase products. You are one.
We already know.